Starts with a Bang!’s Ethan Siegel posted a nice summary of a 2008 Paul Graham post about different argumentation levels. At the hierarchy’s bottom is name calling (“Jane, you ignorant slut!”) and at the top is substantive reasoning that focuses on the point being made.
He used a dandy graphic to summarize the hierarchy:
I wish I could claim to always operate at the top level. Nuh-uh. More times than I’d care to admit, I flounder around in the middle levels. We’d all be better off if we at least aspired to operate at the upper levels.
For more, read “Weekend Diversion: How to Argue“.